How to Quit a Job Professionally: A Comprehensive Guide

Stephen Greet
Stephen Greet March 22, 2024
How to Quit a Job Professionally: A Comprehensive Guide

No one enjoys telling their boss they’re quitting, but once you’ve made the decision, there’s no way around it. Most resignations are smooth and amicable and there’s a whole bunch of guidelines you can follow to help you pull off the most professional and positive resignation possible.

Best practices include making the decision for the right reasons, writing a professional resignation letter, and performing your duties properly right up until you leave. This way, you’ll leave a lasting impression and keep the door open for future opportunities.

Sound perfect? Keep reading to find out how to quit a job and frame your resignation in the best light when you have to explain your reasons for leaving a job!

Deciding to Quit Your Job

Deciding to quit your job

There are a million and one reasons why you might decide to leave your current job, from professional growth to career changes and relocation. Sometimes, the situation isn’t all that positive, but it’s still important to approach it professionally and do things by the book.

Recognizing the right time to quit

As you might expect, handing in a resignation letter isn’t something you should do five minutes after thinking, “You know what? I think I want to quit.” It’s important to critically assess your own reasoning to make sure you won’t be missing out on anything by leaving too quickly.

For instance, what has your career path looked like at your current company, and where is it heading? Being at a standstill is a very legitimate reason to leave, but if you’re due for a promotion or there’s an interesting new role you have the opportunity to transition into,  these possibilities are definitely worth looking into.

It’s also a good idea to research the situation outside your company. What is the job market like right now? Do you have any colleagues that have left the company recently? If so, hop on LinkedIn and see where they ended up and how long it took them to get there—or ask them directly if you’re close enough.

Consulting with trusted individuals

Whatever kind of work you do, there’s a high probability that you don’t work alone. So even though your decision to move on is highly personal, it’s also something you don’t have to decide by yourself. The people you work with, your friends, and your family are all invested in your career and happiness, and they can help give you a fresh perspective on your situation.

Work friends might have information on opportunities you weren’t aware of, and friends can help make sure you’ve thought about the situation from every angle and help you recognize any flaws in your logic.

Preparing to Resign from a Job

Preparing to resign from your job

After all the thinking and discussing, if the verdict is still “leave,” you’ll need to move on to the next stage: preparing to resign.

This is probably the hardest part of the entire process since it includes finding a new job and breaking the news to your boss. But don’t despair! You just need to approach it one step at a time.

Securing your next opportunity

Career gurus all agree on one thing: don’t quit until you have a job offer secured and a new contract signed, at least not unless you can’t help it.

The job market is really quite unpredictable, and there’s no way to know exactly how long it will take you to find something. Sometimes, professional connections can help you get a foot in the door within a few days, and other times, things take a lot longer to start rolling. That’s why the safest approach is always to start looking before you leave your current position.

This way, you can master how to write a resume, leverage the power of a cover letter generator, and apply for jobs, all while still making money!

Best practices for giving notice: How to quit your job respectfully

It’s never a good idea to burn bridges. You never know when you might need the help of an old colleague again, and you definitely don’t want to end up with a reputation for being unprofessional.

It’s much better to stick to the rules—and if you’re not brushed up on them, here’s a little reminder!

  • Two weeks’ notice: This is the boilerplate notice period that you’ll find in all sorts of companies, ranging from the service industry to corporate jobs. It’s enough time for the employers to find someone new and enough time for you to finish up any projects or responsibilities.
  • Short notice: You can give this type of notice at any job, but only if there are extenuating circumstances such as emergencies or personal reasons. It can be fairly disruptive for your employer, so don’t try to find a reason to use it—only do it if you need to.
  • Immediate resignation: This can happen sometimes when there are extreme circumstances such as health issues, unsafe work environments, or severe personal conflicts. You might feel stressed or angry if you have grounds for immediate resignation, but try to handle the situation delicately and explain everything to your manager as clearly as possible to maximize the chances of a smooth transition.
  • Extended notice: If you’re working as a skilled professional, you’ll likely need to give more than a standard two weeks’ notice. This is mostly because your position will take longer to fill, and you’ll probably be working on projects that will take longer to finish or hand over. Depending on the company, you probably won’t have to do this, but it’s a lot better if you do.
  • Contractual notice: If your work contract states a specific notice period other than the standard two weeks, this is what you need to adhere to. You agreed to it when you were hired so there could be legal complications to going against it now.
  • Negotiated notice: Lastly, if you have unique circumstances or you’re on good terms with management, you can try negotiating your notice. This can help you create special deals like leaving at an awkward time overall but sweetening the deal with a longer notice period, or negotiating for a shorter notice period in exchange for referring someone as your replacement.

Writing a professional resignation letter

Next, it’s time to write the resignation letter. Luckily, this is usually much easier than writing your resume! (Hint: using a resume builder and resume checker makes the whole process a lot less stressful.)

For your resignation letter, focus on being professional, straightforward, and concise. Let’s have a look at a few tips and a standard example.

Essential elements to include

There are a few standard things you need to include in your resignation letter, and the first is your declaration of resignation. Clarity is key here, so make sure to literally say you are resigning at the start of your letter.

Next, you need to give the exact date that you’ll be resigning by saying something like, “My resignation comes into effect in two weeks, on 27th March 2024.”

Once that’s out of the way, you can take a few lines to express your genuine gratitude for the opportunity and offer to help out with the transition process. This will make it easy for your manager to ask you a few favors and create as much goodwill as possible.

Example Resignation Letter

Jacob Lowell
123 Pretend Lane
Seattle, WA 98121

March 30, 2024

Ms. Linda Su
AMD (Advanced Micro Devices)
123 Pretend Ave
Seattle, WA 98104

Dear Ms. Su,

I am reaching out to inform you of my formal resignation from the position of software engineer at AMD. My resignation period begins today and ends two weeks from now, on April 14, 2024.

The last five years at AMD have been truly transformative in my career. When I joined the company as an intern, I was lucky to work with some of the most skilled engineers in the industry. Together with the rest of the team, I was able to work on thrilling projects within the AMD Radeon Graphics Division, and the experiences have been invaluable to my professional development.

My goal over the next two weeks is to ensure that all of my projects are perfectly documented and handed over to my replacement.

Thank you for all your help and support during my time at AMD. If you should have any questions after my final day with the company, please don’t hesitate to reach me at [email protected].


Jacob Lowell

Planning your transition

Transition periods can be very different experiences depending on your role. Some jobs might bring in your replacement as early as possible and give you some time to train them one-on-one, while others might have you hand your work over to a colleague.

It’s important to be as helpful and professional as possible during this phase. if it’s obvious that your commitment disappeared the moment you handed in your resignation letter, it can give a very bad impression.

Handing over your work isn’t too difficult, and you may already have experience doing this since people hand over their work when they move departments or go on holiday, too. Just remember to be thorough and take into account your successor’s knowledge level.

The Resignation Process: How to Quit Professionally

How to quit professionally

Now that all the prep and planning are done, it’s time to actually get started. Here’s everything you need to do to get the resignation ball rolling, from scheduling a meeting to telling your colleagues.

Scheduling a meeting with your manager

Handing in your resignation letter face-to-face is the best way to get things started. It might feel a bit awkward but it’s a lot more respectful and straightforward than going through HR and letting your manager find out from someone else.

The meeting doesn’t need to be long, and since you’re delivering news that isn’t exactly positive from your manager’s point of view, it’s best not to be too pushy about it. Adapt to your manager’s schedule, and if possible, try to catch them during a less busy period.

Delivering your resignation professionally

There are three big things to remember when delivering your resignation letter: be professional, don’t ramble, and don’t be negative. It’s a short meeting, so get right to the point by handing over your letter and stating your intention to resign.

It’s best to keep things short and simple when it comes to your reasons. And this should go without saying, but you absolutely shouldn’t say that you’re leaving because you hate the job, the company, or your colleagues! Even if you have complaints, this isn’t the time to put them out there. Instead, give your gratitude to your manager for their guidance and the opportunities for growth you’ve enjoyed during your time there.

In certain kinds of jobs, you might receive a counteroffer. These normally come in the form of a promotion or a salary rise in exchange for staying with the company. If you think a counteroffer is likely and you’re open to a good deal, it’s best to hand in your resignation before you sign the final contracts with your new job.

As for exit interviews—be constructive, honest, and positive. Give praise where it’s due, and frame complaints as areas for improvement. Companies conduct exit interviews to help them pinpoint problem areas, but that doesn’t mean they want to listen to you grumble for half an hour!

Informing colleagues and networking

When it comes to telling other people about your resignation, it’s not about who you want to tell the juicy gossip to. Instead, think about who your departure will impact the most, and who can benefit from extended notice. The word might get around either way, but your responsibility is to help those who work closely with you and benefit from your projects.

Another set of people you can drop a private message to is the people you like and admire the most. Instead of disappearing before they notice, you can take the opportunity to say you enjoyed working with them and give them your contact information so you can maintain a working relationship.

After You Quit Your Job

After you quit your job

After you hand in your resignation you’ll probably have a few weeks of work left before you leave. This is an important time for you and your company because your behavior determines the smoothness and efficiency of the transition and the last impression your management and colleagues have of you.

Wrapping up your duties

The main point here is to keep working hard. You might find yourself less invested and distracted by the thought of your new job, but it’s important to show that you’re committed to producing quality work until the end. It will be hard for any of your colleagues to have lasting respect for you if you slack off and make things harder for them just because you’re leaving.

To make your handover go as smoothly as possible, it’s best to draw up a plan and make sure everyone affected has a copy. That way, they’ll know what you’re doing and when, who will know what, and what state everything will be in when you leave.

Leaving on a positive note

The thing about leaving a job is, that no matter what you truly feel about your experience there, the company and everyone in it are important members of your professional network. You never know where they might end up in the future and when they might think of recruiting an old colleague for an awesome opportunity.

To keep as many doors open as possible, you need to be positive, helpful, and hardworking right up until your last day. That way, more people will remember you as a great person to work with. And, if anyone offers to host a party or an outing in your honor, make sure you go!

Looking forward

Once your last day is over, it’s time to get ready for the next step in your journey. Update your LinkedIn profile to show the date you left your former company, and add the starting date of your next role.

If you did quit before sealing the deal on a new job, you can enable the “Open To Work” feature so recruiters will know that you’ll welcome a message from them.

Next, start looking through resume templates and a good selection of resume examples, figure out your resume outline, and make sure that you’re all set to start applying to new roles.

Essential Tips for Quitting Your Job with Grace and Professionalism

Essential Tips for Quitting Your Job With Grace and Professionalism

Quitting your job properly is all about doing the right things at the right time in the right way. Here are our top eight tips to keep in mind as you go through the process.

  1. Start planning early: Handovers and project wrap-ups can take a lot of time and planning, so it’s good to start preparing early. Adding extra notes, organizing files, and documenting important processes are all good ways to prepare without making it obvious that you’re leaving.
  2. Keep it confidential until it’s official: It’s common for employees to feel closer to their colleagues than their managers, but it’s not a good idea to leak your resignation to your work friends until you’ve told your manager.
  3. Stay professional on social media: Everyone has seen stories about angry social media posts that led to employees getting fired or even having their offers from other companies withdrawn. No matter how much you want to complain, it’s not worth it! Stay professional to make sure opportunities stay open.
  4. Be ready for an emotional response: Different people will react differently to your departure, and while you can hope that everyone will keep their emotions under control, it’s best to be prepared. Try to accommodate whatever comes at you, and quietly remove yourself from any negative situations.
  5. Request a letter of recommendation: You might think this is an annoying task for managers, but most people are happy to write nice things about a colleague—plus it’s a sign of respect that you’d ask for their recommendation. Equally, not asking might make your manager wonder why, so it’s always best to politely request one, even if you already landed your new job without it.
  6. Reflect on your experience: During your transition, you’ll probably be thinking a lot about what was good and what was not so good about the job you’re leaving. However, don’t forget to reflect on yourself as well. What bumps did you experience along the way that you’d like to try and avoid at your new position? And what areas do you want to improve in going forward?
  7. See the exit interview as an opportunity: Exit interviews are mostly for the benefit of the company, but try to still approach them with enthusiasm. You can help your management out by giving constructive feedback, praising the things they did right, and showing the thought and commitment you’ve put into your work during your time there.
  8. Prepare for your first day elsewhere: To get ready for your new job, try to research as much as you can about the company culture and working style. If you know anyone who already works there, meet up for a chat and get some advice on how to make a positive impact or how to use your hobbies and interests to start bonding with your new team.

How to Quit a Job FAQs

How to Quit a Job FAQs
Can I quit my job on the spot?

Giving immediate notice is rare, and you can only do it under special circumstances like illness, family emergencies, or severe personal conflicts. If you want to know more about immediate notice, there may be some information about the kind of grounds your company accepts in your contract. Otherwise, you need to stick to the notice period in your contract.

Should I quit my job if I don’t have another one lined up?

Quitting your current job before landing something else can be risky and a lot more stressful. When you’re still working, each rejection you get during the job search is softened by the knowledge that you still made money that day and can keep looking without feeling pressured.

How to quit a job you just started?

If you only just started a job, you’re likely still in your probation period. Probation periods tend to last between two to six months, and they give both you and your employer the ability to end the partnership easily if things aren’t working out. Just stick to normal resignation guidelines and it’ll be fine.

Is it better to be fired or to quit?

Being fired isn’t a great experience, and it can make things difficult during future interviews when you have to explain why you left your last job. However, if you think things aren’t going well, quitting could be a good way to take control of things—and if you quit you can still ask for a letter of recommendation.

On the other hand, being fired may enable you to receive unemployment benefits depending on your location.

How long of a notice should I give?

The length of your notice period depends on your contract and your personal circumstances. The most common notice period is two weeks, but many jobs tend to have longer notice periods. If you need to leave urgently for personal reasons, you might be able to negotiate a shorter notice period or immediate resignation.

How to quit a job without notice?

Quitting a job without notice can have negative consequences, like losing out on accrued vacation time. If you need to leave a job right away because of a personal emergency, you can ask to resign immediately. Your best bet is to discuss this with your manager and try to part amicably.